Edward delivers his report from the trenches.
As is almost always the case in the see-saw Premier League, the game at St James’ park on Sunday between Newcastle and Everton resulted in optimism for one side and increased pessimism for the other.
And Moyes didn’t have to indulge in any advanced palm reading to see that this fixture was going to cause trouble, Sam Allardyce has a strong hold over Moyes, stemming from his victory as manager of Bolton over Moyes’ Preston in the playoffs and continuing on Sunday when even the Scotsman’s ace card: Mikel Arteta, was trumped by Allardyce’s Emre. Emre, himself an Everton target a few years back, was also at the centre of racist allegations against the Toffees last year. Added to this was the fact that Michael Owen was back on the bench, with the stitches still in his groin. All in all it didn’t bode well.
The good news for Everton? Arteta and Andy Johnson scored. Johnson’s being his first goal of the season.
The bad news? Newcastle hit three past Everton, including strikes from Emre and a barely off the operating table Mickey Owen. Moyes lashed out at his men and their shoddy defending after the game using his new buzz-word, ‘rubbish’. Moyes said :
“We’ve conceded five goals in our last two games and that is rubbish. The goals we conceded here were rubbish.”
Everton’s Johnson also goes in for an ankle op tomorrow and he’ll be out for three or four weeks. Whether this will signal a heavier onus on Yakubu to repay some of the huge outlay on him remains to be seen.
Moyes needs to galvanize his squad, sorely lacking in midfield creativity (despite an improved performance from Carsley and Neville) , Arteta excepted, and bring a top six finish, whilst also succeeding in the UEFA cup – a competition in which their passage to the group stages was somewhat fortuitously assured by a comeback in the Ukraine. This game will have come as a harsh lesson to Moyes, who up until now has preferred a svelte band of brothers to a large expansive squad. Moyes claimed that there was no European hangover but centrebacks Joleon Lescott and Joseph Yobo in particular seemed weary at the start. After the game Moyes said:
“There was no tiredness after our Uefa Cup tie in the Ukraine. It was more down to our bad play.”
Although Moyes’ men played well in portions of the game, in contrast to the Kharkiv game – a question mark remains over the size of his squad. Cahill, Vaughan, and Gravesen were all missed yesterday but a bigger injury could be dealt come the start of the African Nations cup.
Allardyce meanwhile can look to a bravura performance from Emre, capped with an excellent goal, and also the return and goalscoring performance of Michael Owen. Allardyce must have been wary of the ominous presence of Steve McClaren in the stands at St James’ and after the game Allardyce expressed his concern that his star would play two games for England in quick succession after his groin op, especially as Owen’s debilitating knee injury was received whilst on World Cup duty with England. Allardyce said:
“I don’t know if two games in such a short space of time is right. It’s not my decision but I will speak to England boss Steve McClaren.”